Western Branch - A Branch working for its community

Since we last posted about our Branch many things have happened. 

In the County Elections in May. Labour had a increased vote percentage across the the Buckinghamshire. This was reflected with the Wycombe Constituency, with Labour Candidates doing well. Within our Branch we were able to snatch the Booker, Cressex and Castlefield division from the incumbent Conservative councillor. Already the people of the area can see the benefit of having Labour Councillors at County & District levels working in partnership together. 

That is why we are now starting to look ahead to the District Council Elections in May 2019. We want to put together strong teams of Labour Candidates throughout the Wycombe District. If your interested in becoming a Labour Candidate you need at least 12 months membership of the party, so if you're not a member join TODAY!

In the General Election in June, the CLP fought a tremendous campaign with a local Candidate. In the coming months it is hoped to select our next Parliamentary Candidate, members are urged to consider standing for selection. We have cut the Tory majority to 6,557; although this sounds a lot, we believe we can cut if not overturn that majority next time. 

From November 2017, we are planning to move our monthly Western Branch meeting to the Green St Community Centre. We meet on the second Thursday in each month with the starting time of 7:30pm. There is car parking onsite and the centre is on the 32 & 33 bus routes. We will be having guest speakers coming along to some meetings in the coming months. Our meeting are open to all members.

Nigel P Vickery
Western Branch Chair.

Wycombe: A Changing Landscape

Since the 2015 General Election, our constituency of Wycombe has experienced a political roller-coaster ride. Against the expectations of our local MP Steve Baker, Wycombe voted to remain in the EU Referendum. Since then Steve Baker has been an MP who does not have his constituents’ best interests at heart. Steve’s hard right libertarian vision for Brexit and his ultimate desire to see the whole EU dismantled clearly disregards not just Wycombe remain voters’ views, but also the views of many of Wycombe’s leave voters. Partly as a result of Brexit, his almost 15,000 majority was reduced to a little more than 6,500 votes at the recent General Election. Our leader Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity has not gone unnoticed, as he shocked the nation by jeopardising Theresa May’s plan for a hard Brexit. Nationally, we managed to gain 30 seats and prevent May from gaining a majority. Many factors contributed to this reduction, primarily the strength of Labours voice nationally, our manifesto for the many and a strong campaign run by our local Labour Parties. It shows that our policies are resonating well with people and we are offering a new brand of hope.

Troubling Tories

Most recently, our Conservative council has failed its constituents and then added insult to injury with an attempted cover-up. The Tories tried to disguise a loss of revenue for the Council caused by the failure of the recently introduced and now-defunct ANPR parking system. At least £1.3 million of the taxpayer’s money was lost (due to individuals managing to avoid paying for tickets) as a result of this £680,000 scheme. Councillor Katrina Wood (Leader of the Council) showed contempt for constituents already hit by austerity, by trivialising this important issue dubbing it ‘old news’. She continues to serve as Leader of the Council, despite calls for her to resign. The people of Wycombe, and Buckinghamshire as whole, cannot afford to be duped by the Conservatives any longer. With local public finances squeezed by Westminster’s ideologically driven and unnecessary cuts it is imperative that our Council manages its shrinking budget much more effectively than the Conservatives are currently managing. Our council seems content with wasting our money on failed projects, instead of investing in our public services. This must stop.

On a local scale, we have suffered significant austerity based cuts at the hands of the Tories.  Troubling policies implemented by the Conservatives are not strictly limited to a local level of course. Nationally, the people of this country have suffered astonishing cuts to Public Services that are essential to our everyday lives. It is outrageous that, nearly a decade on from the Great Financial Crisis, the poor and most vulnerable are still being asked to pay for the failures of bankers.  Regular cuts are made to our NHS, schools, children’s services, fire brigade, social services, road maintenance and other essential services. On average, a primary school student is losing out on £338 of funding since the Conservatives took charge. As the children progress, the amount lost increases as the average secondary school student receives £436 less than before. These cuts are jeopardising the education of our youth and in turn, harming our already dwindling economy. If the children do not receive a decent education, how can we expect them to contribute to this country and assist in our growth?

As ever, austerity remains a self-defeating policy, sucking demand out of the economy, restricting productive capacity and leaving people underemployed. Ministers have released figures exhibiting that by 2019/20, NHS funding in real terms will decrease by 0.6%. This is one national policy that will have a significant impact on locals in our own constituency, we are still reeling from the loss our very own A&E department. A department that we were prepared to campaign for the return of, if we were elected. Since 2005, constituents of Wycombe are forced to undergo approximately 1 hour journeys, for the sole purpose of finding an A&E department at a hospital. We require easily accessible and safe healthcare and are set to campaign for this. Other public services have suffered a similar fate to that of the NHS, with 265 firefighter jobs having been cut in Buckinghamshire alone, since 2010. A period of endless cuts seems to be the Tory way and we cannot remain idle as this occurs.

Read more

Wycombe Labour calls for the resignation of Cllr. Katrina Wood as Council Leader over ANPR scandal!




Wycombe Labour's Deputy Group Leader Cllr Khalil Ahmed called for the leader of Wycombe
District Council to step aside as leader as an act of belated sense duty for her failure to
reveal the true cost of the bungled ANPR system.

Councillor Khalil Ahmed, Labour’s Councillor for Disraeli, asked the leader a question during
a Full Council meeting last night,

"In light of the recent Bucks Free Press article relating to the loss of revenue through
uncollected fines from the now defunct ANPR system, can the leader explain to the public as
to why we are having to find out about the true cost of the failed project via FOI's and could
she also comment on why a full inquiry was not deemed appropriate to dispel any theories
of a cover up regarding the actual amountlost?"

The leader's response was a repeat of the answer previously given when she was challenged by
the Labour councillor for failing to carry out the necessary due diligence before
implementation of the ill-fated ANPR system and assertions that the cabinet member was
incompetent and negligent in her duty. Cllr Ahmed went on to say

The leader's comments in last weeks Bucks Free Press article refer to the ANPR system as
'old news' and frankly this is appalling, to say the least. Considering that the leader decided
to reshuffle her cabinet and opted to replace the Cabinet Member for Environment Services,
clearly, this was an acknowledgement of failure within her own team and would it not have
been fairer if she too had considered her position as leader, through a belated sense of
duty?

This prompted a very angry response from Cllr Katrina Woods who denied the claim that the
ANPR system as a fiasco as alleged by Cllr Ahmed.



Now it looks as though Wycombe Labour was right all along ever since the issue was
highlighted nearly two years ago. Cllr Ahmed and his colleagues were prevented from
raising this issue initially due to the legal challenge mounted by WDC against the
government. After losing this challenge at the cost of thousands of pounds, WDC were then
confronted not only by Wycombe Labour but the BFP also, after their investigation into the
ANPR system.

In light of everything that has unfolded and the huge waste of tapaers money, the leader
of WDC has no confidence left from the people she stands to represent and therefore should
resign.


Labour's Majid Hussain ousts Cabinet Member for Education in election triumph!

Local Castlefield resident and local campaigner, Majid Hussain, has gained the seat of Booker, Cressex and Castlefield from the Conservative former Cabinet Member for Education. Majid said that "It has been really, really hard work. I have been working very hard in the community and I have had a great team behind me for the last three months. Now it is my chance to pay them back for their support and the faith that had in me. I will do my very best for the people of Booker, Cressex and Castlefield!"

This is proof, along with major increases in our vote share in key Electoral Divisions, that Wycombe Labour is fully ready to take on Steve Baker in June's General Election. Our communities need the strong and principled representation which Steve Baker has failed to provide. Our candidate, Cllr. Rafiq Raja, is determined to improve the lives of families across Wycombe and with the boost we've received from yesterday's result, we will get out there in big numbers and fight for him to be elected as Wycombe's next MP!


Trade Unions are needed to get a better deal for workers

On Thursday the 23rd of February, I asked the Tory-led Wycombe District Council if they would take steps towards encouraging a strong trade union community within multi-billionaire corporations operating within the Wycombe area. During my question, I decided to focus on the Mike Ashley owned Sports equipment supplier that is Sports Direct, which does, and has for some years now, have a store in Wycombe Town Centre. Unfortunately, the Tories refused to acknowledge the need to apply additional pressures on businesses that operate in our local area and do not pay a decent wage.

Sports Direct is a prime example of why a strong trade union presence is needed in retail stores. The hourly wage in a Sports Direct store ranges from approximately £5.45 an hour to £6.80 an hour, depending on your age, role within the store, and experience. Not only does Sports Direct fail to pay a decent wage – whilst Mike Ashley rakes in profits of over £300m pound a year – they also fail to employ workers with the promise of decent hours. Quite literally thousands upon thousands of workers at Sports Direct are on zero-hour contracts, and those who aren’t are put on low-hour contracts to simply make the companies employment statistics look somewhere close to acceptable.

Zero-hour contracts are not only a problem in Sports Direct, however. A report from the TUC in September 2016 informed us that at least 900,000 people from Britain’s workforce are on zero-hour contracts. We must also remember, to add insult to injury that thousands, possibly even millions, may not be on zero-hour contracts, but are still suffering from a poor wage or job that does not guarantee them decent hours.

Not only are billionaire-run corporations being given tax-cuts by the Conservative government, they are also getting away with greedily refusing to employ people with a proper living wage. So, if the government aren’t going to help suffering workers, what can be done to combat such greed and injustice? Well, it appears to me, more so now than ever, that it is time for a strong trade union movement, particularly in retail stores. It is time for workers, not only in retail stores but workplaces everywhere, to have support and encouragement for when it comes to fighting for their rights as workers. With a strong trade union movement, it would apply added pressures on both central and local authorities to act for the needs of working people, and not the tax-dodging billionaires.

If you are interested in joining a trade union, I would highly recommend checking out this website:  https://www.tuc.org.uk/join-union which has an online tool to help you decide which trade union is suitable for you depending on your sector of work. 


Funerals and burials for under-18s should be free

On Thursday 23rd February Wycombe Labour’s Youth Officer asked the Cabinet Member for the Community at the Wycombe District Council meeting whether she’d support Carolyn Harris MP’s campaign to make all funerals and burial free for children who pass away under the age of 18.

Carolyn Harris herself lost her child in a tragic accident when he was under-18 and has recently spoken out about the horrible experience she had to go through planning a funeral and being constantly worried about the costs. The strain which she had to go through shouldn’t be experienced by any other parent.

It is to be commended that the council currently provides free burial for those that pass away under the age of 16. However we feel that two further things need to happen.

  1. Free burials need to be extended to include 17 and 18 year olds as to pay for an adult plot without life insurance is vastly too much for many people.
  2. The council should also work with funeral directors and others to try and secure free funerals for under-18s as again, it is far too expensive for grieving families to pay for without life insurance.

We are willing to work with the current administration at Wycombe District Council in order to at least partially alleviate the pain bereaved families go through by not burdening them with costs that funerals and burials bring.


Funerals and burials for under-18s should be free

On Thursday 23rd February Wycombe Labour’s Youth Officer asked the Cabinet Member for the Community at the Wycombe District Council meeting whether she’d support Carolyn Harris MP’s campaign to make all funerals and burial free for children who pass away under the age of 18.

Carolyn Harris herself lost her child in a tragic accident when he was under-18 and has recently spoken out about the horrible experience she had to go through planning a funeral and being constantly worried about the costs. The strain which she had to go through shouldn’t be experienced by any other parent.

It is to be commended that the council currently provides free burial for those that pass away under the age of 16. However we feel that two further things need to happen.

  1. Free burials need to be extended to include 17 and 18 year olds as to pay for an adult plot without life insurance is vastly too much for many people.
  2. The council should also work with funeral directors and others to try and secure free funerals for under-18s as again, it is far too expensive for grieving families to pay for without life insurance.

We are willing to work with the current administration at Wycombe District Council in order to at least partially alleviate the pain bereaved families go through by not burdening them with costs that funerals and burials bring.


Letter to Steve Baker MP on EU Single Market access

Today, the Wycombe Labour Party posted the following letter to Steve Baker MP. We look forward to his reply.

 

Dear Steve Baker MP,

 

We are writing to you today to express our deepest concerns with the developments surrounding the upcoming “Brexit” negotiations. Being an MP, you will know all too well that our country is severely divided by the EU referendum result. As MP of Wycombe, you will also be able to understand that the 52% of your own constituents who voted to Remain are feeling very uncomfortable at the thought of exiting the single market, and that’s not including any Leave voters who were under the impression that we had no intention of leaving the single market. 

We respect the democratic result of the referendum, and we also respect that you decided to back the Leave campaign, but it is simply wrong to ignore the concerns of your constituents. Your constituents understand that you are a passionate Leave supporter, but now is the time to serve those people who have leant you their powers, and do the right thing to try and heal the divides caused by the EU referendum. 

We respect the result of the referendum, acknowledging that the majority of those who voted wanted to leave the EU. However, this was not the case in your constituency of Wycombe. This is why we are asking for you to come to the compromise of demanding and supporting full access to the single market. By taking this action, you will be both respecting the overall EU referendum result, and also addressing the concerns 52% of your constituents have. MP’s are representatives, not masters of their constituents, and we hope you keep that in mind.


Wycombe deserves better than hopeless Tory budgets

At yesterday's council meeting, where the annual budget was presented, Cllr. Rafiq Raja called out the local Conservatives on their constant mismanagement of Wycombe's budget and the real affect it is having on local people.

Here is his full response to yesterdays budget:

"For any local government organisation, the financial plan is supposed to support the plan for delivering services to residents and the community. The budget should serve the district council, not vice-versa.

 

The officers who have been instrumental in producing the budget have to be congratulated for having produced a balanced budget within the parameters given to them. Naturally, the political direction must come from the party in charge and lest we forget “the budget is based on information and assurances from members and the senior management team”. Moreover, an explanatory note attached to the draft budget to the cabinet, says clearly that “the council faces a significant challenge in continuing to deliver a balanced budget and will either need to implement significant income growth policies or service reduction” so you have it in a nutshell!

 

The creation of the new unitary system of local government is no doubt going to ensure that some of the estimates are going to be wildly out of synch; the budget is just a ‘fire fighting’ exercise.

 

So, yes, we have a balanced budget and ‘earmarked reserves’ of over £36M but where is the overall reference to the ‘big picture’, for societies are judged not just on what the majority of the people attain but what the minorities have to endure.

 

We certainly live in an affluent part of the country and we are repeatedly told that we are doing very well.

 

So after years of Conservative control at County and District levels, what do we see?

 

  1. In our prosperous part of the country we have pockets of deprivation, for example, a third of children in the East side of Wycombe and Castlefield and a quarter in Bowerdean live in poverty. These are not my figures but produced by the Centre for Policy studies.

     

  2. The Conservatives boast about excellent schools and many support the extension of the Grammar schools. Yet they pay little attention to the educational attainment gap, between the different socio economic groups, which continues to be one of the widest in the country.

     

  3. Indeed, the school system is practically dysfunctional, given that upper schools are going to have reduced funding imposed upon them as a change in the funding formula.

     

  4. A few developments for affordable housing have been undertaken, but who can afford to buy a place in Dawes Hill? There is no mention of any programme to offer affordable housing to people on lower incomes or the young.

     

  5. Many of the roads and footpaths in Wycombe are in a pitiful state and it is not easy to get even street lights repaired, without people having to email the relevant people and then act as progress chasers.

     

  6. We have already heard about the ANPR fiasco, which  has cost a tidy sum in lost revenue for WDC.

     

  7.  There is no enforcement of traffic parking rules and as a result commercial vehicles and cars are parked on footpaths and verges.

     

  8. The people of High Wycombe yearn for the town to have its own A & E, but no one is listening. Less charitable people than me believe that it is because no cabinet member represents a Town ward?

  9. You may also have seen (in last week’s BFP), which reported the   “Council’s broken record over homelessness crises”. It is reported that residents and homeless charities fear that WDC has resorted to ‘insidious measures to force people out of the town’s multi story car parks as temperatures plummeted below zero. Apparently, loud repetitive music is being played into town centre car parks in a bid to drive vulnerable rough sleepers onto the streets. So is this the compassionate side of the Conservative party at work? Why some of the reserves cannot be used to help such small but vulnerable groups is difficult to comprehend. Yet we are quite happy, as a council, to pay our share of £25K for the commissioning of the Unitary Authority report of our choice.

     

  10.  You may also have noticed that there are a number of empty and boarded up shops and offices in the town, go to the Chilterns Centre or walk between the White Hart Street entrance to the Eden shopping Centre and Oxford Road; what does this tell us about the state of the business in the Town?.

     

  11.  We were told that there was consultation with the business community about which way the unitary authority debate should head but this democratic luxury was not offered to the residents, who are going to be affected and will have to pay for it.

     

Mr Chairman Since it is clear that this council has no plan for sustainable delivery of key services, this financial plan is effectively meaningless, it is just a set of numbers."


February 2017 Branch Update

The Western Branch of the Wycombe CLP covers a good slice of southwest Buckinghamshire. From the inner town wards of Abbey and Disraeli to the leafy countryside wards of the Hambleden Valley and Lane End. So with such a diverse Branch we have differing approaches to our constituents needs. Housing and environmental issues play a great part in the work carried out by the 4 Labour District Councillors. Currently there are consultations going on about two very large proposed housing projects. Our Councillors are actively seeking views of local residents in the areas affected. 
Wehave no County Council representatives, put hope this will change on the 4th of May. We are fielding a candidate in each of the 5 County Divisions we cover. We are lucky enough to have Candidates with experience, along with newer members seeking Election for the first time. As we do not currently have County representatives. Our District Councillors are busy with not only their district responsibilities, but are supporting Constituents to get things done at a County level. Like road repairs, street lighting. Along with environmental issues such as fly tipping. 
Should you wish to speak will one of our Councillors please look in the Labour People section on this site.
We hold our monthly Branch meetings on the second Thursday of each month (apart from August, when there is no meeting). Further details about Western Branch can be answered by leaving your inquiries on labour4wycombe.



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